Whatever the travails of Jonny Evans this season – it has been the worst campaign of the Irishman’s short career – the greatest stumbling block to the 22-year-old’s progress might be close to home. Indeed, Chris Smalling drew praise from Sir Alex Ferguson, declaring the player as the “club’s future” following an assured display against Stoke City last night.
Smalling’s performance was another confident step by the 20-year-old former Fulham defender in a career that has progressed rapidly from the player’s days in non-league football at Maidstone United. And while the defender has started just eight games this season, mostly in Europe and the Carling Cup, he has looked increasingly at home among more illustrious company.
“Chris Smalling was excellent,” said Ferguson today. “At 20 years of age he is doing very well. I am pleased with his improvement. He is certainly the future of the club.”
It’s a long way from the jitters Smalling suffered in the second half of last season with Fulham, when the proposed move north seemingly affected the players form. Then Fulham manager Roy Hodgson was moved to joke that Smalling was “getting all his mistakes out-of-the-way” before he officially joined United on 1 July.
However, the 6′ 5″ giant began pre-season in the United States in similar fashion, prompting one writer on this website to dub, with tongue firmly in cheek, the player ‘Appalling Smalling’.
That Ferguson was moved to defend the player after Smalling conceded a penalty in United’s 3-1 pre-season defeat to Celtic was evidence to some of the Scot’s folly in paying £10 million for the player.
Ridiculously, one prominent writer moved to declare Smalling “poor”, and claim England Under-21 central defensive partner, Blackburn Rovers youngster, Phil Jones as “twice the player”.
No longer so, with the £10 million signing improving with each outing and visibly growing in confidence. Ferguson’s praise is empty perhaps but the promise of a player who has plenty of pace, a strong touch and potentially outstanding passing skills is strong.
Moreover, the London-born defender sports a humble down-to-earth nature that will serve him well under the intense Old Trafford spotlight.
“It is nice to hear some positive words from the manager,” said the England Under-21 international.
“At the start of the season I got to play every other week but I haven’t had a game for the last few weeks. Hopefully I can make my presence felt and get many more.
“For the time being, it is all about concentration and consistency.
“That will improve the more I play. I know Vida and Rio are the first choices, I just have to make sure I do equally well when I come in, so I know I am playing my part.”
By contrast Evans would probably commit murder for a decent performance in a United shirt. He might even settle for just a partially incompetent one, such has been the defender’s utterly woeful form this season. Repeatedly out-muscled and often targeted by physical opponents, Evans has suffered the worst season in his time with United.
All is not lost but for now Evans might even benefit from a loan spell away from Old Trafford. After all, he is unlikely to feature much for Ferguson’s outfit in the coming months bar an unforeseen defensive injury crisis. It’s unlikely to happen with Ferguson not boasting enough central defenders – with Wes Brown out-of-favour and John O’Shea injured – to feel comfortable with a reserve departing.
Yet, the Irishman’s problems are not insurmountable. Physically the 22-year-old is bullied at times, with opponents quickly clocking the intimidation that Evans tends to wilt under. Mentally, low confidence has shown in an increasing positional uncertainty.
Neither lack of confidence or intimidation phases Smalling now, whose physical presence alongside Nemanja Vidic last night did much to negate Kenwyne Jones’ influence. Indeed, it was the United captain who strayed from his position to allow Stoke’s headed equaliser shortly after half-time.
And yet the decision on Ferdinand’s succession is not that far away. The 32-year-old England captain has seemingly shed the injury problems that plagued him for more than 18 months but age is no friend. Vidic too will pass 30 before the year is out.
Of course Paolo Maldini played at the very highest level into his 40s. Ferdinand’s composure might enable the Dagenham-born player to match his erstwhile hero. The player’s back might not.
In the meantime Smalling appears both willing and able to step into the beach.
33 thoughts on “Is Smalling, not Evans, Ferdinand’s natural successor?”
As well as praising Smalling, Ferguson also said that Evans has been doing very well in training… so he’s not finished yet.
He’s only 22 and centre backs, like keepers usually take longer to mature than attacking players.
I still think Evans will be a fine player.
“Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”
Smalling is way in front of Evans at the moment.
more than his form I’m worried about the increasing signs of lacking bollocks
I will be gutted if he don’t make it
Evans… He’s 22, and had a bad season so far. Following two rather fine ones, one of which he ably deputised for Rio for many games. I always felt he played better alongside Nemanja than Rio.
Surely the plan is for Evans and Smalling to form the backline for the next decade?
A blip. He (Evans) just needs to bulk up and get a few decent performances under his belt. All is far from lost!
Smalling… what a fucking fairytale :o)
agree with everything you say Ed aswell as Alf and the Uncle
Massiveling can be huge – a great attitude – and probably has no idea how fucking good he can be.
The best thing about him is like Rio and Vida – and Bruce, Pally, Stam, he is physically an amazing athelete – fast as shit off an oily spade and a hard cunt without appearing to be hard.
I bum up Rio all the time but you only have to look at the way Massiveling moves across the box to see what a natural he is.
Does he have a natural defenders brain like Rio and the above, that comes with time, experience and a partnership with a stand out goaly.
central defence and a goaly is all about partnerships which is why a fucking standout super bollocks ruthlessly talented goaly is needed so that both Massiveling and Evans can truly blossom.
put a shit goaly in with any of Massiveling and Evans and they will be behind the curve.
the true test for me of a Grandmaster Kasparov, Tendulakar, Woods, Lennox defender is if he plays he makes the goaly and his parner play better
that is why Rio is worth fifty times his weight in gold – if Rio plays, VDS and Vida are simply better
check this out – apparently Rio had not made one single foul until last night since last MARCH. fucking hell, that is scary shit – GOD LIKE.
Smalling looks the better prospect at the MOMENT but the
next 18 months is critical for both players
have to admit i was wrong about smalling
thought he was absolute fanny to start with but he has improved a great deal
but still not been up against a really dangerous attacker yet, so im reserving judgement
well clearly you’re not reserving judgment, first you decide he’s shite then you decide you were wrong, there’s two judgements you thick cunt
oh kiss my hairy tookas u pedantic arse fingerer
reserving judgement til the end of the season is what i meant to say
Chico and Smalling looking like fantastic signings – props to the scouts.
Hopefully Bebe can blossom in 2011.
Don’t be surprised if SAF ships Evans out to Stoke, with
Shawcross heading to OT.
I’d be very surprised. He’s had a few bad performances. Fin. He’ll come good.
Some proper idiots on this board…
Vida looks much more comfortable playing with Smalling too. When Evans plays, Vidic has to shift to the right of the pairing and gets caught out of position more often.
Still, if Evans gets down the gym and bulks up he can still be a player
Give Evans time; maximum physical strength doesn’t develop until about 25 years of age; his current problem is hesitation and he is getting caught dwelling on the ball; he appears to be in 2 minds over what to do with the ball when he gets it.
As for Smalling, he’s been very impressive; let’s hope he keeps developing.
There is a lot of updated news stories on what will be happening at Man Utd come this summer, in reference to the players SAF is clearing out and the ones he is bringing in as replacements. Check it out.
Smalling has indeed been quite impressive so far and deserves to be ahead of Evans in the pecking order.
However,I still believe that Evans has the right attitude to succeed and his poor form is just a passing phase.It doesn’t make sense for him to go on a loan move just because he happens to have endured a few miserable months.
Let’s look on the bright side; SAF talks about potential. Give the man some credit. Smalling is a terrific physical specimen & he is quick & hard enough. He seems to have a football brain & has a good feel for the ball & he seems level headed. He reminds me a lot of the younger Pique, but so far is less mistake prone & quicker. OK, he will make big mistakes & we don’t know how he will react & we don’t know how ambitious he is & how hard he will work on his game. At this stage he has the potential to be as good as Rio. The same goes for Raphael -terrific attitude, improving all the time & has the potential to be another Dennis Irwin, with more pace. Fabio, given his chance, might well be just as good in time. Hernadez is a natural goalscorer, a specimen as uncommon as rocking horse droppings, & there are a few bonuses: he has settled in very well; he is keen to learn; he has pace, giving us an option; he works hard to find space & he plays with a smile on his face.
If you add to that lot Wellbeck, Cleverley, Morrison -if only one of those has the potential of the ones mentioned, we’ll be bloody lucky- & Nani, who has more potential than the lot of them, & Anderson, a midfielder who can actually go past people & has a great enthusiasm for the game, we are a very fortunate lot.
Yes, and if you check out what SAF is saying today, Cleverley, Wellbeck, Pogba and Morrison will be in the team next season along with Jack Rodwell and Jordon Henderson. All quality English players to add with Ferdinand, Smalling, Carrick and Rooney. Looks like SAF’s dream of Man Utd being an all English team before he retires is coming true! And then there’s O’Shea, Evans and Gibson.
Herbie – well to be fair he said Anderson and Rafael will be key players, and Smalling “is the future” – he didn’t name Cleverley, Wellbeck, Pogba or Morrison.
Come on Herbie… you’re doing it again…
If you’ve got some interesting links, post them, so we can see for ourselves, instead of just thinking YOU are talking bollocks.
Do you think Rodwell and Henderson will be good signings for United? Whats your opinion? Morrison is a class player but I don’t know too much about Pogba? Some of you may know more about Pogba than I do. I will post the link.
Well we shouldn’t attach too much importance to these kinds of things, SAF regularly bigs up his players, like most managers. In Anderson’s case, I think this is particularly a part of Fergie’s man-management, to be seen to be praising the player in public. Anderson seems like a tricky lad psychologically speaking, maybe a bit unstable, and I get the sense that last season thought he needed a kick up the arse, but now thinks he should be rewarded for getting back on track with some public praise.
I’ve been impressed with smalling, but is it just me or was he at fault for the goal against stoke.
He was dragged out of position, got sold by the dummy and allowed a cross to be made. and obviously wasn’t where he should’ve been to challenge whitehead in the air.
I still think he looks a great prospect, i’m just surprised that all this praise has come when i felt he was at fault for a nearly important.
I think Rodwell would be a great addition. If TK, MO, OH, VDS, GN, WB and DG go in the summer I could really see SAF signing a new keeper, defender and midfielder. I would prefer to keep Brown though.
FFS/…Bill can you not post without adding fantasy football bollocks
I think Smalling has settled in well this season considering he really has had very little game time with Fulham prior to joining United. I think Fergie sees him as Rio’s natural replacement and he did think Evans could take on the Vidic role but is still to be 100% convinced following Jonny’s dip in form. I think a loan move would suit him well in the 2nd half of the season. We have enough cover at CB with Smalling, Wes, JOS etc.
Evans looks like today is doing him the world of good. Nice header too.
He benefited from the sending off
Was never tested
Smalling is a gifted defender and very natural,Evans is slower and less agile, the lad needs to shed some timber too,Smalling is the better ball player and very cool on the ball, he reads the game very well,Jonny still needs to impress for me, Smalling already has!
why did SAF sell pique?
bad bit of business
Pique wanted out… tired of sitting on his arse… don’t blame him either.
Maybe not Sid, but even before the sending off, he was playing with some real confidence… this will have done him a lot of good.